Renovación

Renovacion, Mexico City, Mexico

Renovacion, Mexico City, Mexico

Antonio got there early.

“You’re in luck,” bossman said. “Today we got a load from Texas. We can use you.”

It was two hundred pesos a day. A fortune, compared to his father’s factory job.

Inside, a woman showed Antonio how to pry the precious metals from the motherboards, how to free the veins of copper from their insulated sleeves, and how to cover his mouth with his t-shirt when hammering apart the screens.

“See how nothing is wasted?” she’d said and then she coughed into a curled fist.

At dark, bossman came back and counted out the bills. “You party big tonight,” he chuckled. “Come back tomorrow.”

The woman waited until bossman was gone and tugged at Antonio’s sleeve. “Don’t listen to him. He keep you here til you choke on a lung. Be smart. Save money. A year or two of this, and you can leave Renovacion for good.”

150 words

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt or to submit your own, click below:

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When I randomly landed upon this location for Pegman, I had no idea what it was. I wondered at the tarp-covered stacks of debris, and after a bit of research learned that this is where mountains of discarded electronics go to be recycled. You can learn more in this great article by Michael Smith:

In This Mexico City Neighborhood, Life Revolves Around E-Waste

9 Comments

  1. Excellent story. You capture the feeling really well. I think it’s extremely important that we practice this sort of empathy with our southern brothers and sisters during this period of jingoistic nationalism.

  2. I hope those aren’t old CRT monitors he’s hammering on. They hold a tremendous charge, even when unplugged, and messing around with them, you could get knocked across a room or even killed. Not to mention all those components are toxic. Yeah, he’d better save his money and hope to live through the experience.

    1. Sounds like the practice has been really hard on the workers and the neighborhood for sure. Thanks for reading.

  3. A nice sense of hope for him at least. We never think about where our old goods end up when we throw them to be recycled, I hope they don’t all end up like this. Nice one.

  4. I’ve seen a few news stories about such places. The ones I heard about are in China, but I suppose it could happen in many countries. Just as in your story, such workers are living on borrowed time. Excellent portrayal of a modern day reality.

  5. Great take on the prompt. I love how you illustrate Antonio’s future through the woman’s cough.

  6. Excellently told. A good warning. I can picture the early times in America where child labor was still used in factories. Such a tragic scene. 🙂 ❤

  7. peterkirsch

    Masterful…and heart-wrenching.
    Another triumph.

  8. Dear Karen,

    Love the characterization and the dialogue. Antonio needs to listen to the woman. Well written.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

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